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Qualicum Magical History Tours

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

November history closeup: Qualicum War Memorial

In May, 1946, a committee was struck to create a District War Memorial park and cenotaph at the Qualicum waterfront.

700 ft. of waterfront property was donated by QB Inn owner E.L. Boultbee and Simon Little drew up the plans for the esplanade, which would stretch from the Qualicum Bakery at the north end, south to the beachfront area opposite Dougan’s garage (now the Shell station). Little’s design, which included a reinforced concrete retaining wall and three large plots of land containing grass, flower beds and ornamental trees, would transform the log-strewn beach into a ‘beauty spot’ to commemorate those who lost their lives in the wars. By August, 1947, the War Memorial Committee’s door-to-door campaign had raised the $5000 needed to build the park and the following year, the site was cleared of logs, graded and ditched. The first Armistice Day service at the site took place on Nov. 11, 1949. Over the years, due to often-blustery November weather, the double doors of the mechanic bays at Dougan’s large garage were thrown open and the Armistice services were held there; as veterans aged, services moved uptown.

October history closeup: Island highway

Here is the intersection of the Island Highway and Crescent Road East in 1945 and today.

In the old photo signs direct people to the Qualicum Beach Hotel ½ mile, the Sunset Inn and the Morgan Hotel. The large house on the highway is the old Connelly place, still standing today on Burnham – the roof and chimney are just visible in the present-day photo. The highway was just tarred in 1945; blacktopping took place around 1950. Note how the trees at the corner in the 1945 photo have grown in 75 years. Photo courtesy John Miller.

September history closeup: Valhalla

The lovely Edwardian house with the distinctive paired porch columns at 210 Crescent Road West was built in 1913 for the first manager of the Qualicum Beach Inn, R. Thompson Tinn.

The large living room, paneled with an ornamental plate rail circling the walls, had a beamed ceiling and a large fireplace capable of taking a 4-ft log, essential in the days before central heating. The house served as the nurses’ residence during WWI when the QB Inn became a convalescent home for returning soldiers. For many years, it was known as ‘The White House’ because of its colour. Its many owners include General Money (when his own house was under construction), the Morgan family, the Kennedys and the Havemeyers, who installed a bathtub the size of a small swimming pool to accommodate the 6’ 7” Mr. Havemeyer. George and Eve Knight were long-time owners and in more recent years, Reg and Lill Dill, who named the house ‘Valhalla,’ meaning ‘final resting place for brave and noble Vikings where good food, music and friendships are shared.’ Valhalla was willed to the Town of Qualicum in the late 1990s and is now home to the Oceanside Hospice Society. In January, 2010 it was formally recognized as one of Canada’s Historic Places.

August history closeup: Grandview Camp

Grandview Camp is where my family used to stay when we vacationed at Qualicum in the 1960s.

Established in the early 1940s by Jean and Fraser George, the Grandview had one and 2-room cabins on the highway side and 4 and 5-room cottages on the beach. There was a camp store with a lunch counter along with a wooden dance floor. A novel innovation was the supply of “Whoopies” – a combination of boat and raft – and you could also rent bicycles. The Grandview was located east of the Shady Rest on the main part of the beach (there’s a park there now). There was once a small road that led up to the Crescent Motel (also owned by the Georges) on property high above the beach and Mr. George would ride up and down the steep slope in his 4x4 truck. Image MSC130-08491-01 courtesy of British Columbia Postcard Collection, a digital initiative of SFU Library.

July history closeup: The Log Cabin

Built in 1925, the Log Cabin Inn was very popular with visitors and locals alike because it offered a little of everything. Swimmers could come right up to the wide verandah facing the beach at high tide. You could get candy and ice cream, teas and home-cooked meals.

There was a fine dining room, and a large hall that was used for dances and ‘picture show nights.’ The dances, featuring live bands from Nanaimo, were a big hit - some young men walked all the way from the sawmill in Nanoose to attend. At one time, Beach Creek ran underneath the building – if you opened a trap door during spawning season you could see fish jumping. The Inn offered four cabins, and you could get fishing equipment, boats, canoes and advice about local conditions. In the 1940s, the dance hall was repurposed for use as a roller rink until a storm damaged the hall in the mid-1950s. The Log Cabin was torn down in the 1970s to make way for the Sandpebbles Motel. Image MSC130-4773-01 courtesy of the British Columbia Postcards Collection, a digital initiative of Simon Fraser University.

Walking tours are on!

The Town Tour tells the story of Qualicum’s beginnings, our pioneers and first merchants and takes a up-close look at our many lovely heritage buildings. The Crown Tour describes Qualicum’s glamourous heyday as an internationally renowned resort, featuring the old QB Inn, golf course and Crown Mansion. Tours run Thursday, Friday and Saturday - PM me through this site to book. For Tuesday Tours book through the Qualicum Beach Museum and partial proceeds go to the Museum.

June history closeup: Eaglecrest

What we know today as Qualicum’s Eaglecrest Golf Course was once the setting for a grand lodge and farm, the magnificent vision of Senator A.D. McRae. The lodge (pictured here) once stood across the street from what are today, 933 and 936 Bluff Drive.

Senator McRae was many things: military man, land speculator, prominent industrialist and farmer. He liked to do things big, and Eaglecrest lodge, made of specially peeled cedar logs, was truly titanic, spanning nearly 60 m (200 ft.) long and 15 m (50 ft.) deep. It boasted four massive stone fireplaces, and a sweeping view of mountains and ocean.

The inside was equally grand. At the center of the lodge was the spacious living room, with a fireplace that reached the to the top of the soaring, 8 m (27 ft.) ceiling. The room was lavishly furnished with hand-made furniture, valuable antiques and imported, hand-woven rugs.

The great lodge was McRae’s headquarters for Qualicum Farms Limited which extended for several miles along the waterfront.

Senator McRae passed away in 1946, and two years later, the lodge and estate were bought by Leonard Boultbee, a real estate man from Vancouver. He turned Eaglecrest into a posh holiday retreat. Guests paid from $20 to $50 a day for the lodge experience (pricey at that time). The place was so exclusive, staff checked the social standing of guests by calling the prospective guest’s home town.

Guests dined by candlelight at the long, English refectory table in the baronial dining room. Massive, metal-studded doors opened on a bar of burnished copper, and 5-branched, wrought-iron torchères flanked the fireplace.

For guests enjoying lunch at the luxurious country retreat on March 23, 1969, the disaster that was about to unfold was far from their minds. A fire broke out near the chimney of the main fireplace, and it was soon out of control. A hastily formed bucket brigade, a sprinkler system, and 25 volunteer firemen – hampered by a lack of water and equipment – could not quell the blaze.

After the fire, all that stood were four towering stone fireplaces and chimneys, haunting testaments to Eaglecrest’s one-time grandeur.

In July of the following year, a new Eaglecrest Lodge – close replica to the original – rose from the ashes. Three years later, Boultbee persuaded the Town of Qualicum to invest in a 1,500-gallon tank truck for the volunteer fire department, and to extend fire protection to his estate. Despite these measures, on July 10, 1981, the replica Eaglecrest went up in flames. It was never rebuilt.

May history close: The Qualicum College Inn

...........How a British style boarding school became the setting for medieval feasts, a Hollywood movie and all that jazz

The Qualicum College operated as a private school for boys from 1935 to 1970, British-style, like its founder, Robert Ivan Knight, with a focus on high academic standards, sports and rigorous discipline. Upon closing the College, Knight envisioned the sea-side premises as an ideal setting for a boys' summer camp.

But entrepreneur Mike Dyde had other ideas.

The Qualicum College Inn opened its doors as a 20-room hotel on May 5, 1972. Owners Mike Dyde and Kerry Keilty melded remnants of the old college days with medieval motifs. One could enjoy a drink in the ‘Prefect’s Lounge, and the Old Boys’ Dining Hall was hung with photos from the school’s archives. The restaurant meal comprised five ‘removes’ – the medieval term for courses. The Manor House Country Soup was ladled from a table-side cauldron into wooden bowls, and the ’Squire’s Serving’ of meat – chunks of beefsteak and lamb – were eaten with a hunting knife. The College Inn’s semi-annual Jazz Weekend was a popular draw, featuring jazz greats such as George Shearing, Cannon Ball Adderley and Ramsay Lewis.

In the summer of 1977, the College Inn became the setting for a made-for-TV movie, Ants! The local Qualicum Beach volunteer fire department played an integral role, rescuing beleaguered guests from the ant-ridden Inn.

In the same year, Dyde and Keilty proposed a convention center and tourist facility on 3 1/2 acres close to the Inn, designed like a Tudor Village with shops, boutiques, and spaces for craftspeople and artists. Neighbourhood residents raised concerns about increased noise and traffic, and the idea was shelved.

Postcard image of the Qualicum College Inn courtesy of Laurel Lahay, Campbell River.

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